"When you say we're headed to the Messiah -" Rolland leaned towards the Cardinal "- you mean the same Messiah that left Earth eight hundred years ago?"
The shuttle pierced the blackness of space toward the starship Messiah. Captain Barron, Ambassador Locke, and the compliance agent Jordan Rattan now shared the shuttle with Cardinal Abidan, the Catechumen Auditor.
Abidan smiled. "That's right."
"I'm surprised it's still functioning."
"The vessel has been held in a preserved state for many centuries now," Abidan explained. "There are no humans on board, and all environmental systems have been deactivated. This was done to eliminate the aging effects of water, heat, and air."
"That would do it," Rolland said. "But it might make our visit a little less pleasant."
"Jehovah will reactivate the necessary systems for our visit."
"Right." Rolland looked out the viewscreen. "Of course."
"There it is." Abidan pointed to the front viewscreen.
In the distance they saw the small bronze speck of the Messiah against the stars.
"That ship has something to do with how you control the Robots?" Jordan asked.
"Jehovah controls them -" Abidan turned from the window "- but yes, it has everything to do with it. You see, the Catechumen left Earth with an important realization: after more than two millenia of false prophets and twisted interpretations of the Lord's word, they knew they should not walk in the footsteps of others. To truly commune with the Word of the Lord, they must forge their own path to understanding. To this end, they built the Messiah." Abidan motioned to the bronze, cross-shaped vessel that lay just ahead. A bay door drew open on the approaching vessel, pitch black within. Their shuttle glided slowly inside.
"I still don't understand -" Jordan turned from the viewscreen "- what exactly does this ship have to do with the robots?"
The shuttle settled down to the floor of the Messiah's bay. There was a loud mechanical sound, then a vibration through the shuttle. Jordan jumped at the sudden noise.
"It's just the bay door closing," Rolland explained. "Older ship. No e-field."
Kristina's voice entered the shuttle cabin. "The bay's depressurized. Looks like environmental systems are coming online now. I'll let you know when it's safe out there."
"The Messiah was where we learned how to commune with Jehovah -" Abidan turned to face Jordan "- we used our technology to come together with the Word of the Lord. To answer your question, the robots are controlled by Jehovah, who acts through those in communion."
"I'm not sure I follow you." Jordan raisd an eyebrow.
"It will help to see it." Abidan smiled.
"You might not want to go out there," Kristina spoke through the communicator.
"What's the problem?" Rolland asked.
"The EC on that ship is way under spec," Kristina replied. "You got some air. But there's a lot of particulate matter."
"Irritants. I'd advise breathers. And it's cold."
"Minus five. Oh, and I hope you're all EVA trained."
"There's no grav'?"
"Nope. Zero G."
"Alright." Rolland bent to a knee, popping a panel under the bench to rifle through its contents. He pulled out a small device, roughly triangular with smooth edges, and a strap extending from the back.
"Breather?" He extended the device to the Cardinal
"For what purpose?" The Cardinal raised an eyebrow.
"Protection." Rolland pressed the device to his face, showing how it fit snuggly over his nose and mouth.
Abidan shook his head. "Jehovah will protect us. I have been here before, under his protection."
"It's your call." Rolland slipped the strap over the back of his head, his voice now distorted through the breathing device. "But I'll feel more comfortable with the breather."
"So be it." the Cardinal raised a hand.
Erin reached down to open the panel under her own bench, taking two more breathers and handing one to Jordan. They slipped the protective devices over their faces.
"Alright, Kristina." Rolland spoke through the communicator. "We're ready to go."
The shuttle door hissed open and cold rushed inside. They looked through the opening into the foreign ship. Dim red emergency lighting illuminated the small bay, casting shadows from tubular protrusions on the rusted metal walls.